07/01/2022 11:15 PM
The Bethesda Big Train hoped to start the month of July on a high note, but it would not be easy facing the Alexandria Aces at Frank Mann Field on Friday Night.
The Aces, 7-3 in their last 10 coming in, had closed the gap between themselves and the Big Train to only three games. And the last time the two faced off on June 25, the Aces blew out the Train 13-4 at Shirley Povich Field.
Unfortunately, Bethesda struggled on both sides of the ball Friday, blowing an early lead, failing to capitalize on other chances, and eventually losing 9-3.
The Big Train had the right man on the mound. Brayden Jones (Ole Miss) got his second road start of the season and had a sparkling 0.59 ERA through 15.1 innings coming into Friday.
However, he did not have his A-game against the Aces. Jones walked four batters and allowed two runs, one earned, on three hits. Despite his inconsistency, he departed after three innings with the Train in the lead.
Per usual, the Big Train got off to a strong start. In the top of the second, Peyton Schulze (California) drilled a lead-off double to left center. Next, Garrett Felix (Nicholls State) flied out to right fielder Eddie Hacopian. Schulze tagged up to advance to third on the play and Hacopian airmailed the throw, allowing Schulze to come home to open the scoring.
In the bottom of the second, Alexandria quickly responded with an RBI double by Connor Offshack to tie the game at one.
Bethesda would take the lead back in the top of the third. Baylor Cobb (Louisiana Tech) launched a double down the right field line, bringing DM Jefferson (Notre Dame) to the plate.
The Bethesda, Maryland native hit a ball to the warning track in right center resulting in an RBI triple to give the Big Train a 2-1 lead. Jefferson has been a consistent bright spot at the plate for Bethesda since his arrival from the College World Series just over a week ago.
“I got the fastball I wanted, so I just got my barrel to it,” Jefferson said. “Thank God [the outfielder] missed it, and I just kept running.”
The Big Train made it a 3-1 when Emilien Pitre (Kentucky) plated Jefferson with an RBI double.
However, a recurrent theme in this long stretch of games has been letting leads slip. Friday was no different. The Aces got to within one thanks to a sacrifice fly from shortstop Adam Tellier in the bottom of the third.
Everything unraveled for the Big Train when they went to the bullpen in the fourth. Todd Mozoki (James Madison) gave up three straight hits to the first three batters he faced. The Aces cashed in for three runs on five hits in the inning to take a 5-3 lead they would not relinquish.
“On the scoreboard it said two errors but we had eight errors,” manager Sal Colangelo said.” The extra bases [allowed] are errors. We’ve got to be better defensively.”
Luke Baker replaced Mozoki in the fifth after the Aces made it 6-3 on an RBI ground-rule double from first baseman Cade Sullivan.
Baker stopped the bleeding and was solid for the rest of the game. He struck out four and only gave up two runs on five hits. However, his solid performance was not enough to contain an Aces offense that racked up 15 hits.
The home team did not fold once they took the lead, something the Big Train must start doing if they want to stay in first place.
Normally, after the game, the Big Train coaches and players huddle up in the outfield. However, Friday night featured a players only huddle to address the sloppy play and arrest it before it turns one loss into a multi-game skid.
“We were just reiterating like baseball is baseball,” Jefferson said. “You just need to come in every single day, day in and day out and just give everything you got. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. It doesn't matter if you win or lose but [it’s a] measure of how much fight there was.”
Colangelo also believes fatigue is playing a big factor in the simple mistakes.
“It's been a long season for them, and sometimes the players want to meet and hold each other accountable as far as the growth process, authority process and being held accountable,” Colangelo said.
Friday’s contest marks the ninth game in a row for the team, part of a run of 11 games in 11 days, which has also included the completion of two suspended games.
The Big Train have a two-game homestand this weekend starting Saturday night at 7 p.m. against the Gaithersburg Giants at Shirley Povich Field before two consecutive off days.
These next two games are a golden opportunity to grab a couple wins before the short All-Star break and the intensity ratchets up in the second half of the season.
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